Gay Marriage

Libertarian Australian Senator Introduces Legislation to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage


Want to hear a senator introduce legislation legalizing government recognition of same-sex marriage in a speech that also invokes the names of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwing von Mises? You'll have to go to Australia for that, mate. Alternatively there's YouTube. Libertarian Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm, the sole representative of the country's Liberal Democratic Party (that's their libertarians), is introducing legislation to require the country to recognize same-sex marriages as legal. Here's his speech he gave yesterday on YouTube:

For those who can't watch, you can read his speech here. Some paragraphs relevant to lovers of liberty:

My political tradition, classical liberalism, has always drawn a strong distinction between the public and the private spheres. Indeed, that distinction can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. Unfortunately, many people are aware of classical liberals only when they talk about economics. It is not well known, for example, that Milton Friedman—probably the 20th century's most influential economist—supported marriage equality. But a great libertarian economist's support for marriage equality should come as no surprise. It was economists like Friedman, Hayek and Mises who produced groundbreaking research showing that private individuals tend to make better choices for themselves than do experts engaged to decide on their behalf. Why then do we confine marriage choice to some people and deny it to others?

Support for marriage equality does not require or, indeed, imply approval of any particular marriage or marriage outcome. Nor does it open the door to bigamy, polyamory or any of the other dire consequences that some people predict will be the eventual outcome. It is not as if they will sneak up on us, either. For these to be legal, further changes in the law would be required, which would involve widespread public debate.

I support marriage equality because I think people ought to have the freedom to choose their own life path—that is, to have liberty. As John Stuart Mill said: 'Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.' All my bill does is prevent the government from stopping two people from getting married on the grounds that they are not a man and a woman. It does nothing more, and requires nothing more than tolerance.

He has written the legislation in such a way that the state would have to solemnize same-sex marriages, but private sector ministers and the like could not be forced to do so if they object.

Whether the bill will actually get anywhere depends on Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National coalition of parties he represents. The Liberal Party in Australia would be considered center-right in our terms. The party's official stance is in opposition to recognizing same-sex marriage. Party discipline in Australia pushes hard for its members to vote the party line unless a "conscience vote" is permitted. Some parties are allowing conscience votes for (or against) gay marriage recognition, but the Liberal Party has not yet. Here's how The Guardian describes the politics involved:

Leyonhjelm said he aimed to trigger a Coalition decision on a conscience vote, but he would not move for the Senate to vote on the bill until he was confident it had majority support in the chamber.

"I had a meeting with the prime minister a few weeks ago and he made it plain his opposition to same-sex marriage; he is also not enthusiastic about me bringing this on," Leyonhjelm said on Wednesday.

"His argument was the government's got plenty of troubles without this one coming along. I wasn't convinced, so I decided to bring it forward."

Leyonhjelm said a conscience vote was not a matter for the prime minister to decide alone. Leyonhjelm said there was strong support within the Coalition for allowing a free vote, even among those who would ultimately vote against same-sex marriage.

A poll from July shows Australians strongly supporting same-sex marriage recognition at 72 percent. A higher percentage, 77 percent, want to allow Australia's MPs to have conscience votes on the matter.

Read my interview with Leyonhjelm about pushing for libertarian policies in Australia here